Mia Wasikowska delivers a masterful performance in this exploration of one woman’s nine-month journey across the harsh, isolating Australian Outback.
In 1978, photographs of Australian writer and explorer Robyn Davidson appeared on the cover of National Geographic with the accompanying headline “alone across the Outback”. That 2,700km journey with camels captured the imagination of people across the world and spawned a best-selling novel, Tracks, which is the basis for director John Curran’s film of the same name. Mia Wasikowska plays Davidson, delivering a largely solo performance with long stretches of time without anything to act with except herself, the harsh Australian landscape, and the camels (of course). Adam Driver as photographer Rick Smolan and Rolley Mintuma as Aboriginal Elder Mr Eddy are her occasional scene partners, but Tracks succeeds largely thanks to Wasikowska’s promise as one of the finest actors of her generation being fulfilled.
The other star is behind the camera, with Mandy Walker’s cinematography able to capture the isolation of the setting while never isolating the audience itself, bringing them with Robyn on her journey which is as much about escaping people as it is finding herself. Playing in Official Competition at the Venice International Film Festival and screened in Special Presentation at Toronto, Tracks may have been cast in the shadow of another ‘woman in the wild’ film released that same awards season – Wild (2014) starring Reece Witherspoon – yet it was the one that was unanimously revered by critics and has endured as a masterclass in visual storytelling, pacing, cinematography and, of course, performance. In the words of Glenn Kenny: “You miss Tracks at your aesthetic pleasure peril. It’s a truly outstanding cinema experience.”
– Maria Lewis, Assistant Film Curator